Campbell’s physician assistant program launches Monday

BUIES CREEK — With the University’s sights set on a proposed School of Osteopathic Medicine in 2013, Campbell will take a giant step forward in enhancing health care education this week with the launch of its Master of Physician Assistant Practice program.

Classes in the renovated Carrie Rich building will officially begin Aug. 22, with 34 students enrolled in the 28-month program. The charter class will be prepared to meet a big need in the U.S. health care industry as experts predict a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by 2020. And the Institute of Medicine anticipates a significant shortage of primary care providers in North Carolina over the next decade.

“Physician assistants are an essential part of the health care workforce,” said Tom Colletti, director of the PA program. “Our feasibility study for the program revealed that in the state, there is a 10-to-1 applicant-to-graduate ratio, indicating a high demand for students who want to become physician assistants.”

Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. While physician assistants are trained as generalists to care for all age groups and populations, only 37 percent practice in primary care.

Campbell’s program will emphasize primary care and prepare students to practice in medically under-served areas throughout the state.

“Our program will recruit students from under-served areas and disadvantaged backgrounds and prepare them to provide excellent primary care to their populations by returning to those areas of need,” Colletti said. “Above all, we will our train students to be compassionate and competent health care providers who will carry out the mission of community service that is the foundation of Campbell University.”

The program will focus on teaching evidence-based medicine, training students to research and interpreting medical literature while putting the best evidence into practice for their patients. During the first 13 months in the classroom, lectures will be interspersed with clinical critical reasoning exercises aimed at teaching students how to analyze patients’ conditions.

“We are one of the few schools that require a course in orthopaedics during the first year of training and a clinical rotation in this is area as well,” Colletti said. “Statistics show that up to 20 percent of office visits in primary care are for musculoskeletal problems, and I want our students prepared to treat those patients.”

Cutting-edge technology has been purchased to teach students anatomy through a digital platform. Students will also be exposed to two plastinated cadavers (which can be used for up to 15 years each) to augment their training.

The program will stress interdisciplinary education, in which students from a variety of health-related fields learn together. Plans are in progress for an on-campus clinic where physician assistant and pharmacy students will work together to manage complicated medication treatmentsand provide patient education on drug therapies and wellness.

Patients referred from local practices will meet with physician assistant students for intake history and physical exams, and student pharmacists for medication consultations, with supervision of licensed faculty.   In addition, students anticipated to be enrolled in the proposed School of Osteopathic Medicine will also train alongside physician assistant students to learn how to work effectively together.

“Medicine is no longer a cottage industry run by MDs,” Colletti said. “It is a collaborative team approach that utilizes the skills and training of all health care providers for effective, cost-efficient, patient-centered care.”

After practicing as a physician assistant for over 30 years, Colletti said he is ready to serve as the program’s first director. 

“I have seen providers – MDs, PAs and NPs – who were not properly trained throughout my career,” he said. “I wanted to lead this program to make sure students have the basic medical skills needed to go into practice. To do this our students will have to prove they can handle the basic medical conditions and perform the basic procedures before they graduate.”

By next academic year, 68 students are expected to be enrolled in Campbell’s Physician Assistant program.


STORY: Courtesy of Andrea Pratt

PHOTO: Campbell University’s Physician Assistant Director Tom Colletti welcomes the inaugural class to campus. Photo by Bennett Scarborough